Can You Build A Hybrid Environment Where Everyone Thrives?

Are you starting to get back to ‘normal’ in the office, but unsure how to best integrate people who are still working from home? Are you seeing new inclusion challenges arising as you look for ways to ensure people who are not physically in the office still feel like they belong? Even though working from home has meant people are working more hours than before, are you still worried about their levels of productivity?  

If so, it might be time to think differently about the way people work.

“I think the first thing we need to admit is that maybe we haven’t catered to people in the past. That maybe our fetish for things like productivity, growth and profit has actually meant that we may talk about people, but we focus on finance,” said Dominic Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian Software when I interviewed him recently.

“The reality of this new hybrid world, of some people in the office and some people at home, is very complex and if we hold on to the belief that line of sight equals good work, then we’ll be creating a two-tiered system, disadvantaging those who are working from home,” said Dominic.

So, how do we ensure our workplaces of the future are both inclusive and effective?   

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer when it comes to developing a hybrid working style. Allowing for the uniqueness of your people will ensure you are being as inclusive as possible,” explained Dominic.  “The question should not be ‘what percentage of people will be working in the office?’ but rather ‘how do I build an environment where everyone thrives, rather than one way for everyone?’”

Studies have found that the most effective, distributed, and autonomous teams all have a really strong mission, with strong accountability, roles and responsibilities. Everyone works together, but also works effectively alone, and work can be done at any time. This not only builds trust, but also builds a working style which is more effective and inclusive and allows for people to be more creative in their own way.

Thinking about leadership in a new way will also help to embed inclusivity in the organization. Rather than leaders thinking they need to have all the answers, they can invite ideas from their people, modeling their own vulnerability and empathy. This creates an environment where diversity of opinions is respected and welcomed and helps support inclusivity in a tangible way.

Dominic stresses that inclusivity doesn’t mean that there is always consensus amongst the people. Rather, it means sourcing a diversity of opinions and having respectful dissent, disagreement and debate, then gaining commitment as a united front.  In high performing teams with psychological safety, friction can create a spark that generates ideas rather than negative sentiment.

Dominic suggested the following ways leaders can begin to work towards a more inclusive hybrid workforce.

  • Role model leadership –Firstly, decide if you’re a manager or a leader.  ‘Manager’ is a title for someone who controls processes and ensures compliance with policies.  A ‘Leader’ leads others not by power, but by influencing people to get them behind a mission.  Leadership is a mindset, and once you decide you’re a leader, the next thing is to acknowledge that you’re a role model – whether you like it or not!  So, if you want authentic leaders who show empathy and vulnerability in your organization, then you need to role model this yourself, rather than just tell others to do it.  And when you are successful with that, and you are vulnerable with it, people will mimic and follow you.
  • Reflect on your leadership –Use the retrospective Four LsLoved, Longed for, Loathed, Learned – exercise from the Atlassian team playbook.  Consider in the last 90 days what you loved about your leadership.  What were you awesome at?  What was your superpower?  Consider what you longed for; the thing you wished you could do, that’s been on your to-do list forever, that you never get around to because you don’t have the time or energy.  Consider what you loathed; the habit or ritual that’s no longer useful or valuable.  And the rule is, you’re not allowed to add in a longed for until you’ve removed the loathed to give yourself the extra space and time.  Finally, consider what you learned.  Chances are, this will be something that’s gone terribly wrong, as we usually learn more from mistakes than from success.  This can be a very confronting and powerful way to learn and practice your leadership skills.
  • Check your team’s health – Use the Atlassian team Health Monitor exercise.  Rather than thinking it’s up to you as a leader to guess ways to improve your team, you can just ask your team.  No matter how good you are as a leader, or how much empathy you think you’ve got, you still only see the world through your own lens.  So asking your team enables you to get better answers, as you’re able to hear the world through their lens.  The Health Monitor includes questions such as, “Does your team have dedicated owners for your projects?  Do you have explicit roles, responsibilities and accountabilities?  Do you have a shared understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing?  Do you have trust?”  Then, as a team, everyone can vote on where you’re at, talk about results, and choose one area to improve as a team.  Two weeks later, you can assess again, creating a very tight learning cycle, which is needed in a world that’s inherently unpredictable and uncertain.

How is your workplace ensuring inclusivity for hybrid ways of working?

To discover more evidence-based practices to help people thrive at work, check out the Making Positive Psychology Work Podcast.